The FVRCP vaccine for cats is one of two main vaccines recommended for every single house cat, regardless of their lifestyle. (Rabies is the other core vaccine for cats.)
Why is FVRCP considered one of the most important vaccinations for cats and kittens? Because it protects against three common viral diseases that can have significant health effects on unvaccinated cats.
The risks associated with these infections far outweigh the small risk of side effects associated with vaccination. Hence the vaccination guidelines for cats (opens in new tab) (founded by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association) recommend this vaccine for all kittens and adult cats.
What does the FVRCP vaccine protect against?
The FVRCP vaccine protects cats from three serious viral diseases: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.
All three of these viruses can cause serious infections, and all three viruses can be potentially fatal.
- Feline viral rhinotracheitis: This herpes virus is a common cause of upper respiratory infections in cats. Common signs of rhinotracheitis include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and fever. In some cases, cats with rhinotracheitis develop secondary infections that can severely affect their breathing. In rare cases, infection can be life-threatening. As a herpesvirus, rhinotracheitis causes lifelong infections; Symptoms can always recur when the cat is stressed.
- Feline Calicivirus: This is another common upper respiratory tract virus in cats. In most cases, the signs of feline calicivirus are similar to feline viral rhinotracheitis. Less common signs may include mouth sores, joint swelling, and limping. Some strains cause a highly virulent disease that is often fatal.
- Feline panleukopenia: Also known as feline distemper, this virus attacks a cat’s gastrointestinal tract and immune system. Affected cats develop vomiting, diarrhea, and secondary infections. Less than 50% of cats infected with panleukopenia survive the infection.
There is no cure for feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, or feline panleukopenia.
Infected cats can be given antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections and medication to control the symptoms of the disease, but these viruses can only be cured by the actions of your cat’s immune system.
Vaccination helps your cat’s immune system respond quickly to infection and is recommended for all kittens and adult cats.
For more tips on preventing illness and keeping your kitten healthy, check out our kitten care tips.
FVRCP vaccine side effects
Most cats tolerate vaccines well with minimal side effects. However, just like a flu shot, side effects can occur.
The most common side effects in cats are lethargy, decreased appetite, injection site pain and fever. These effects are typically mild and short-lived. In fact, less than 1% of cats (opens in new tab) Experience side effects that cause their owner to contact the veterinarian.
In rare cases (less than 1 in 2,000 cats (opens in new tab)) a more severe allergic reaction to the vaccine may occur. Vomiting, diarrhea, facial swelling, and general itching can indicate an allergic reaction. If you observe these signs in your cat after vaccination, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Finally, cats can also develop an extremely rare post-vaccination skin mass known as vaccine-associated fibrosarcoma. These masses are very uncommon, but they can occur. If your cat develops persistent swelling (lasting more than a month after vaccination) at the vaccination site, contact your veterinarian.
How often do cats need FVRCP?
Kittens should receive their first FVRCP vaccination at around six weeks of age. Booster shots are given every 3-4 weeks until the cat is 16-20 weeks old.
As an adult, FVRCP vaccines are given less frequently. The first adult booster vaccination is given to your cat one year after the end of her kitten series. Your cat will then receive booster shots every one to three years for the rest of its life. (In general, injectable FVRCP vaccines are boosted every three years and intranasal FVRCP vaccines are boosted annually.)
Continue your cat’s FVRCP and rabies vaccinations (on the schedule recommended by your veterinarian) for your cat’s life, even into old age. How long do cats live? Sometime between 12 and 20 years of age, and it is important to continue preventative care into old age. Older pets often have weaker immune systems than younger pets, making vaccination even more important as your cat ages.
For information about rabies, the other core vaccine recommended for all cats, see How often do cats need rabies vaccinations?
How much does the FVRCP vaccine cost?
A typical FVRCP vaccine costs around $20 to $40 depending on the brand of vaccine your vet uses.
However, this vaccine must be accompanied by a physical examination. Your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet to determine if they are healthy enough to receive a vaccination and to determine if there are any other health issues that need to be addressed.
For both a physical exam and an FVRCP vaccine, you can expect to pay around $50 to $100 depending on the cost of living in your area.
Given the need for repeated vaccinations during your kitten’s first months of life, you may be wondering: does pet insurance cover vaccinations?
The answer to this question depends on your specific pet insurance policy. Many policies are designed to only cover accidents and illnesses. However, some policies offer optional coverage for preventative care. Read the details of your insurance policy carefully to determine what is covered.
The FVRCP feline vaccine plays an important role in keeping your cat happy and healthy. Follow your vet’s recommended vaccination schedules (both for the FVRCP vaccine and other recommended vaccines) to protect your cat from serious infectious diseases and to maximize your cat’s chances of a long and healthy life.